Thursday, 30 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard in our Scripture readings today firstly the words of the prophet Jeremiah speaking about the Lord as the Potter, our Potter as One Who moulds us and shapes us as He desires and wills, while in the Gospel passage today we heard about the Lord speaking to His disciples and explaining the kingdom of heaven to them with a parable, the parable of the fishes and the kingdom of God.

In our first reading today, we heard the prophet Jeremiah speaking metaphorically using the example of a potter, a common profession at that time making clay products used for various purposes in the community. Those clay products come in many different shapes and forms, from jugs and drinking cups to basins and containers, as well as decorative pots and vases for many purposes. And the shapes vary widely depending on the fashion at the time.

The prophet used the example of a potter to compare the Lord’s work on His people, as if a potter is not happy with the product he created, he would reshape it and remould it while it was still soft and mouldable. The potter would reshape the clay patiently and change it to suit the intended final product, before heating the completed product in the oven and the clay harden into the final shape due to the heat. But once the clay has already hardened, should there be a mistake or defect, then there is no other way to rectify it other than to crush it and destroy it.

By this symbolism, the Lord is saying to His people how He has been so patient all that while reaching out to them and calling on them to repent and return to Him with faith. The Lord has always been patient in trying to remould and change the hearts and minds of His people, despite all of their stubbornness and rebelliousness. But of course, as with the potter’s clay and pottery works, there will come a time when it will be the end of the line, when it is too late for us, if we constantly refuse to be changed and remoulded by God by continuing to follow down the path of rebellion and sin.

In the Gospel reading today, we heard a related reading in which the Lord used the parable to explain the same intention to His people, by comparing the kingdom of heaven to a large fishing net in which good and bad fishes were all caught and gathered together. Only the good fishes would be gathered and kept, while the bad and poor quality fishes would be thrown away and discarded, unwanted and rejected.

Through this, the Lord wants us all to know that everyone is welcome in His Church, the Church often being symbolised and represented as a boat, and the fishes being all of us. God calls on all of us, whether big or small, good or bad, regardless of our background, our character, our race or origin, all of us are called and welcome in the kingdom of God. And God has given us all many chances to change ourselves and to turn towards Him once again with faith, rejecting all sorts of falsehoods and evil.

Are we going to ignore that, brothers and sisters in Christ? God’s ever great generosity and love for us? Let us not wait until it is too late for us to realise that we have spurned so much of His love and mercy, when we stand by the gates of hell from which there is no hope and escape any longer. Those who end up in hell are those who by their conscious choice, chose sin over good, chose wickedness and evil over righteousness, and chose the path of Satan over God’s path.

Today we also have the inspiration from one of our holy predecessors, whose life and inspiring works can be a role model for us all in how we ourselves ought to live our lives moving on from this point onwards. St. Peter Chrysologus, a renowned preacher and bishop, a great Doctor of the Church has inspired many with his life’s examples and actions, and hopefully he can inspire all of us as well.

He was known by the epithet and name ‘Chrysologus’ meaning the ‘Golden-mouthed’ precisely because of his very inspirational and wise preaching, that drew many people to the Lord and helped to gain salvation for many souls during his ministry as priest and later on as the Bishop of Ravenna in the late Roman Empire era. His inspirational homilies and preaching touched many people deeply, with the style being simple and relatable to the people and yet also rich in theological truth.

He was also renowned for his great and deep piety and devotion to God, that further encouraged many of his listeners to turn towards God and to avoid the falsehoods and heresies that were very rampant at that time. Through his life, obedience to God and faith, St. Peter Chrysologus inspired many to be good and true Christians and to turn to God before it was too late for them. Are we able and willing to do the same too, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Now, let us all discern how we are to proceed in life from now on, keeping in mind that the Lord has given us generously many opportunities to be reconciled to Him, to reject sin and evil, and to embrace His love. Let us all seek the Lord with renewed spirit and vigour from now on, that in the end, we may indeed be worthy to enter into His most glorious kingdom, to enjoy forever the promise of eternal life and happiness, the joy everlasting free from sin and evil.

May the Lord be with us in this journey and may all of us be ever more devoted, and be willing to commit ourselves to be good Christians in all words, actions and deeds. May the Lord strengthen us all in faith that we may persevere through even when we encounter many obstacles and temptations in life preventing and blocking our path and progress forward. St. Peter Chrysologus, holy saint of God, faithful and devout servant of our most loving God and Father, pray for us all sinners, now and always. Amen.

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